News / Africa

Ivory Coast’s 'iPad Government' Embraces New Media

Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Ivory Coast's internationally recognized President Alassane Ouattara (L) uses an iPad prior to attending African Union talks in Addis Ababa, March 10, 2012.
Anne Look
Social networking sites and online innovation are changing the face of government, activism and business in Ivory Coast and throughout Africa. 

They are called the iPad government.  Ivory Coast's ministers take notes and send e-mails on their touchscreen tablet computers during weekly cabinet meetings.  They share and access documents through an online portal.  The government is going paperless.

Ministers are encouraged to blog, Facebook and tweet regularly.  Many of them actually do.

Guillaume Soro, currently the president of the National Assembly, is launching his own android/iPhone application.  Social media has been key to Soro's rebranding from a rebel leader to a serious politician with aspirations on the presidential palace.

Youth minister Alain Lobognon said it's about reaching citizens by whatever means possible.  And, when nearly four out of five of those citizens are under the age of 35, social networking sites are a natural choice.

The population, he says, needs to know the truth about incorrect information.  If you are not fast, he says, rumors get going and can do real damage.  Ivory Coast doesn't have a dedicated 24/7 news channel.  The state media broadcasts at 8 p.m. but by then, it can be too late. 

Instant reaction

Social media sites, like Twitter, he says, allow the government to react almost instantly to news, rumors or criticism.

Lobognon says he can send as many as 100 tweets a day -- the short 144-character messages posted to Twitter, a kind of global online chat board.  He tweets on ministry initiatives but also exchanges with constituents and replies personally to private messages.

It's good leadership, Lobognon says, but it's also good politics.

He says a Facebook or Twitter account is like instantly filling a room with 5,000 people, if you have for example, 5,000 subscribers.  Then, multiply that by 10, he says, for all your subscribers who will share or re-tweet your message and you have just reached as many as 50,000 people with the click of a button.

Could social media change the way Africans run for office?  Could the internet revolutionize the way Africans govern, find a job or even go to school?

Not yet, but that's the idea, say a group of young Ivorian e-entrepreneurs who get together most Thursday nights at a comedy club in Abidjan.

'Techies'

These young, self-professed techies are the best and brightest of the country's fledgling IT (information technology) sector.  They are programmers, strategists, designers.  They socialize amid the glow of blue screens as several tap away at their laptops or handheld tablets. 

Mohamed Diaby is director of an Abidjan marketing strategy firm, Waleya Hub, which organizes the meet-ups.  It also puts together seminars to teach "techies" how to market their ideas and young people how to use the internet.

It's a business, Diaby says, but it's also about creating "useful technology."

Technology, he says, can help Ivory Coast, and Africa, catch up when it comes to healthcare, education and other sectors.  It doesn't have all the solutions, he says, but it allows them to go faster, to skip steps along the way.  It's not just a race for money, he says.  It's a race to development.  The next step is getting the coming generation up to speed, he says, and then this will explode.

Many, like Diaby, moved back home to Ivory Coast after training and working abroad, pillars of the so-called African "brain gain."

This group of people, he says, has been around for about four years, but it was the crisis that really united them as a community.  The next step is for them to monetize their ideas, to be able to earn a living with their expertise and then ultimately take their creations to the world market.

'Testing ground'

The crisis he is referring to is the 2010 - 2011 post-election conflict that killed 3,000 people in Ivory Coast.  The tragedy proved to be a technological testing ground.

A group of programmers had already set up a site to map what was happening during the election and created the twitter hash tag #CIV2010.  Hash tags are a searchable way for people to label their tweets.  It, and other Ivorian hash tags, became sources of up-to-the minute information on news and violence.

Blogger and IT consultant, Cryriac Gbogou, says they also created the hash tag #CIVsocial to help people stranded in their homes by the fighting.

He says people could post when they, or someone they knew, needed food or help getting to a hospital.  He said they would connect that person with help or supply it themselves.  The initiative, he says, saved 82 people and resulted in two successful births done by phone with doctors talking women through the labor and delivery.

The aims of these IT inventors aren't entirely altruistic.  They do also need to make money.  The challenge now, they say, is how to do that in a country where just a tenth of the population is online and internet scams have made e-commerce near impossible.  The country is blacklisted on sites like PayPal.  DSL connections at around $60 per month are too expensive for most families.

Innovation must often precede infrastructure, they say.  They hope to create the demand that will drive the investment.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid